The Recovery Ratio

Here’s a mathematical argument for why you should be working 4 days a week, not 5.

At first glance it doesn’t seem to make that big a difference:

4 days out of 7 = 4/7 = 57% of your days spent working

5 days out of 7 = 5/7 = 71% of your days spent working

The 5-day week only adds 14% more to your burden of work, compared to a 4-day week, but adds 25% more hours  to your workweek, and thus money to your paycheque. Worth it, no?

Short answer: NO. What the simple-minded analysis above doesn’t take into account is the amount of recovery time you get, relative to the amount you work. In other words, the number of days you are ground down by the economic machine versus the number of days you are uplifted by doing your own thing. I call this the Recovery Ratio, and it measures out like so:


The “RR” is calculated by the division (recovery days) / (work days). The standard work week gives a baseline ratio of 2/5 = 0.40.

Note what happens when you work a 4-day week with a 3-day weekend — the RR jumps to 0.75, close to twice the baseline ratio. In other words, you get almost twice as much net recovery — plenty to offset the 20% drop in pay you’d have to take.

The RR really starts jumping into the stratosphere when you progress (i chose that word deliberately) to the 3-day and even the 2-day work weeks, which have about three and six times the net recovery as the standard week.

So if you’re finding the standard 5-day work week a bit, well, inhuman, maybe you should consider angling for a 4-day week. Seriously, this thesis has been tested and proven by many experimenters in the field, myself included.

Not to mention that if we are ever going to get this juggernaut of a consumer culture under control, we’re all going to have to shift our priorities to more satisfaction and less stuff. So the 4-day week is the moral thing to do as well!

Honest Abe

lincolnAlso prescient Abe. This passage appears in a letter from U.S. president (1861-65) Abraham Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864. (The war he’s referring to is the American Civil War, but you know how history repeats itself.)

We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood…. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.

As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.

God did not grant, and 144 years later we are living what Abe foretold. I have long felt that reining in the giant multinational corporations will be the enterprise that ultimately decides our collective fate.

Today, thanks to Guy Dauncey‘s laudable EcoNews newsletter, i learned about an interesting take on this: Dr. Riki Ott wrote a book (Not One Drop) calling for a 28th amendment to the U.S. constitution, one that constitutionally separates corporation and state. This would effectively negate the judicial rulings (since 1886 in the states) that corporations have the same rights as human beings, including trial by jury and protection against the taking of property.

Ott was involved with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound, which Exxon recently wriggled out of — after nearly 20 years in the courts — with a fine of $507 million. (The original award was $5 billion plus). Exxon’s constitutional protections played a key role in that that legal wrangling. The “suit’s” side of the case is presented in this article. From the other side, a 4-minute video by Ott is on YouTube if you’re interested.

Hmm, 20 years in court, Exxon versus a small Alaskan community … you pretty much know how that’s going to turn out.


I dunno where the publicity has gone for this seminal anti-celebration, launched 17 years ago by the visionary ADBUSTERS–journal of the mental environment. Probably buried under the landslide of alarmist press covering the economic meltdown.

But its message is even more relevant today, so ladies and gentlemen, i beg you, keep your wallets closed for one day and contemplate the message that

You are NOT what you buy.


Friday, Nov. 28


My letter to Steve


I caught this CBC story this morning, which begins with the lead:

The Conservatives are poised to eliminate the public subsidies that Canada’s five major political parties receive, a move that would save $30 million a year but could cripple the opposition.

The story, posted last night at 11 p.m., has already garnered some 850 comments, mostly from outraged members of the 66% “minority” who didn’t vote Conservative in the last election (which cost $300 million, in case you’re counting pennies).

Here’s the letter i just dashed off to my esteemed MP James Lunney ( and cc’d to my doubly esteemed Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (

Dear Mr. Lunney,
Your party’s imminent move to cut taxpayer subsidies to political parties is a deeply cynical political move and a blow against democracy in Canada. The $30 million saved will not make a difference in a recession measured in ten and hundreds of billions, but it will have a strong negative effect on the opposition parties that represented, what, 66% of the country’s voters in the last election. An election that was called somewhat frivolously, I might add, at a cost of $300 million.

Your party’s role as government of the day is to lead, not to use every method at its disposal to cripple the opposition.

Please rethink this sad political ploy and get busy with meaningful work.


Greg Blanchette
Tofino, B.C.

Men, retreat!

I spent the weekend at a men’s retreat. This bastion of the 1980s and 90s seems to have plummeted in popularity since the millenium (a Google search on “men’s retreat” brings up a scant 434,000 hits), which brings up the burning question “Why?”. Could it be that men are now so bonded and well-adjusted that they no longer need the rituals and self-affirmations of encounter groups. I doubt it!

Still, i found the retreat idea intriguing, especially since it built on a Men & the Environment conference that featured Victoria’s eco-uber-guru Guy Dauncey, whom i’ve wanted to meet for a long time. Man and the (degradation of the) environment . . . call it a hunch, but is there a connection there somewhere? I went to both events.

So the five stages of men’s retreat for me seem to be: trepidation, hope, deliberate participation, fear of hugs and tears, fun, annoyance, bemusement, getting lost in the woods, and hesitant embrasure. (How many is that?) It was an interesting experience. An eclectic 14 guys — no, men, let’s not shy away from the word — many of whom had experienced the movement years before, some drawn to it, some pushed by crises in their lives.

What did we do in those two days? None of your business is my first response. There’s a reason rituals are guarded — their secrecy gives them much of their force. The big surprise for me was realizing that ritual does have power. Heretofore i’d looked upon it as play-acting or metaphor, and assumed that what efficacy it had comes not from the acts themselves but from their attached cultural significance.

The water altar

I was wrong: the ritual itself induces change in one’s thinking and the conduct of one’s life. And it works in ways that nothing else can. The more i think about it (i’m writing this ten days later), the more i realize the extent to which it has affected me. And the greater my dedication to the arts, which i see as ritual in another guise.

Men’s groups, as it turns out, also come with lots of gushy language and touchy-feely superlatives, to which i am NOT attached in this age of rampant and meaningless exaggeration. (That piece of toast was to die for, it was amazing, it totally changed my life! Pah!) So part . . . much . . . most of my reservations are me being uncomfortable with the physical and the sharing aspect of the weekend. I have pretty much NO experience spilling my guts to men, and that brings with it the correspondingly meager comfort level.

The whole exercise is pretty much one of creating a safe place for men to be with each other in a meaningful way, which is the key. There are plenty of safe places for men — work, the bar, the street, a sports field — but none are particularly meaningful and in none of them do we dare spill our guts or say what’s really on our minds. That’s necessary but almost impossible to find outside of the formal men’s circle.

Would i do it again? I would. I probably will. I might even start organizing a men’s group wherever i end up settling down.

Our three elders/organizers need mentioning:

  • Michael Tacon, of the Well Foundation, grandfathered the whole thing.
  • Dr. Steven Faulkner has run men’s groups as part of his medical practice for decades, and was our principal guide through the long Saturday. A steady hand on the emotional volume control. In his words (kind of telling me off for my cavalier treatment of the rites):

[The] purpose of the rituals was to re-enter our own mythological space and reconnect us individually to our universal nature. Once we reconnect to that, then we can return to the work immediately in front of us. Guy Dauncey reminded us that that there is an urgent need for leadership today. We engage where our higher self intersects with our natural skills.

  • John Shields, ex-priest and current executive director of The Haven (25 years of personal growth courses on Gabriola Island — How could i not have heard about this?‘), wound the weekend up with a striking cosmological perspective of, well, the universe and everything in it. The man has presence. Brought tears to my eyes.

The conference and the retreat were organized by the Well Foundation of Victoria. It was held at the YM/YWCA’s Camp Thunderbird, near Sooke.

Dauncey, incidentally, lives in Saanich, Vancouver Island, and runs and puts out the Econews monthly newsletter. If you’ve got those world-in-the-toilet blues real bad, Dauncey’s the pill. (Him and action, at any rate.) The man’s an optimist and a visionary and his uplifting message is oh, so welcome in these dark, dark times. Do yourself a favour and check it out.